social class


It’s funny to find myself giving a presentation about getting a date, as I’ve asked exactly one person for a date and was rejected. I agreed to help with a presentation in my Sex Therapy class about clients who are lonely and want to date. This is my rough (but roughly accurate) outline for my part of the presentation, about what the research says:

Things to Know About Loneliness

It’s common. 10-25% of people are significantly lonely. Adolescents and young adults are the loneliest groups.

There are two kinds: Social and emotional—a lack of a sense of social integration, and the absence of an attachment figure. Most research is about social loneliness, and the two can get confounded. Our clients may mistake one for the other.

It is bad for us. Both social integration and attachment figures are human needs. It significantly increases morbidity and mortality, probably mediated by stress and also possibly by metabolic syndrome. Predicts 25-30% of suicidal behavior. Loneliness is a key vulnerability in sexual offending.

Things to Know About Dating

Lots of people are single. Maybe close to half.

Rejection hurts. Physically. Seriously. It may actually help to take a Tylenol. Normalize the pain and the fear of pain.

There is a lot of research and it may be good to know, for psychoed purposes:

Awareness. To get a date, other people must be aware of you. Are your clients making others aware of them? The general rule here is to stand out from the crowd in some way that does not violate social norms. Standing out in a negative way will not help.

Attraction.

Physical attractiveness is a big deal. Sorry, it just is. If it is an issue, consider a conversation with clients about grooming. Beyond that, blame the media and move on to the points below.

Appropriateness. Again, violating social norms generally will turn people off. There is also a lot of research on stuff like age, social/economic status, and race/ethnicity acting as “appropriateness” filters for affiliation, but I’m not sure how helpful that will be for clients.

Familiarity. People will like you more just because they know you. As long as you didn’t make an initial negative impression, becoming a regular will help you.

Similarity. Opposites attract is wrong. People like people who are like them. This is a good plug for meeting people at special-interest events. (Bars are an exception. Very few real relationships start in bars.)

Responsiveness. We like people who seem interested in us. Eye contact, questions, turning towards bids for attention. Check your clients for an exaggerated sense of putting themselves out there.

Approach/Affiliation. If you want someone to approach you and choose you, you need to be accessible and receptive. These are much like the awareness, familiarity, and responsiveness principles, above.

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I listened to a story on NPR a couple days ago about a how high divorce rates and teen-pregnancy rates are correlated to the state’s political ideology. Republican states have significantly more divorce and teen pregnancy. In fact, as a whole, the US divorce rate has been holding steady since the mid-90s, while the “red state” divorce rates (and teen-pregnancy rates) continue to rise. That means the blue states make up the difference and their rates are falling. NPR speculated that it’s because in family-values states, people get married earlier because of social pressure or so they can have sex, but choose badly because they don’t know themselves as well as they would several years later, when Democrats tend to get married. They also note that states that are swinging Democratic, like New Hampshire, are starting to have less divorce and teen pregnancy too.

It makes some sense, though I wouldn’t have guessed it. There are a couple of things not made explicit in the story that I wonder about. First, I wonder if the Republican fixation on “family values” issues is being driven by this phenomenon; to someone living in a Republican state, divorce and teen pregnancy are really pressing issues, because their ideology and behavior are not matching up. It could even be a vicious cycle: Values driving divorce driving values…. Second, I wonder how much of this has to do with money. Social class, really. Red states tend to be poorer, and poverty puts serious stress on a marriage. And poverty is correlated with a lot of other stressors, like substance abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse. Also, they mention that the demographic whose divorce rates are dropping the most are women who have graduated from college. I’ve been attending a state university for a few years now, and I can tell you that it’s not full of poor people. These kids (‘ parents) have money.